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Matthew Perez, a senior in the Mission Career Tech Early College High School program at MHS, earned an accomplishment not many seniors can claim.
Perez, who will join his Class of 2020 at the Tom Landry Hall of Fame Stadium for their first outdoor graduation in years, had already graduated from college at the end of last year. Earning his associate’s degree in welding, Perez completed 60 college hours.
Perez first heard of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at MHS when a Mission Career Tech ECHS team visited junior highs throughout the district to conduct presentations. The team made sure to inform them on the types of certifications that are available at the CTE program currently housed at Mission High School. It is a “school within a school” concept that provides students with many options and opportunities, and is available to all high school students in the district.
Perez started working on his associate’s degree in the fall semester of his freshman year, taking dual enrollment, summer and night courses at South Texas College to complete the requirements for his degree. All the hard work was worth it, according to him.
“It felt very special – I graduated from college before high school, which is something not a lot of students can accomplish,” Perez said. “It felt relieving in a way.”
Perez chose welding because it sounded interesting, but he said he didn’t know much about it when he initially signed up. Through dedication and focus, he was able to sharpen his skills.
“I just decided to go into it to try something new,” Perez said. “I thought it would be a fun back-up.”
Perez will be attending the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in the fall, where he intends to major in civil engineering.
“I’ve taken many engineering courses in high school, and I want to continue to work with the programs they have in computer designing,” Perez said. “I want to continue to work with technology.”
His degree in welding will come in handy for this profession.
“I thought welding would be helpful in that career,” Perez said. “So I just decided to try something new and go for it.”
He added that even if the degree doesn’t work out the way he hopes, having welding as a back-up has set him up for success regardless.
“The skill that it requires is something that you need to practice over and over again,” Perez said. “It’s just satisfying when you get to through a good weld, you get to see it and it looks nice.”
Academically, taking the rigorous college courses helped Perez even with his high school classes.
“They pushed me to keep trying,” Perez said. “It required many of the basics to be completed, so I kind of completed most of my basics for college in general. I get to skip like a year and a half of college.”
“I can live a good life with the education I have already received,” Perez added.
When he was a freshman, Perez participated in the band, playing the trumpet. He spent his summers in high school working with his aunt at Santa Maria Health Care.
“I was busy, and I volunteered,” Perez said.
Perez will most miss his friends and teachers, who helped him throughout his high school experience.
“They were all very helpful, and pushed me to do my best,” Perez said. “They were the reason I continued my associate’s degree, because they told me to strive for something bigger, to keep trying and to never give up.”
His mother is the driving factor in his success, according to Perez.
“She’s always been there for me, and has always helped me strive toward greater things,” Perez said. “She continues to push me to this day, she just wants the best for me.”
When Perez thinks about himself entering high school four years ago, in retrospect he would let him know not to second-guess his decisions.
“Continue going and see where life takes you,” Perez said. “Never doubt yourself.”